Friday October 10, 1924
“Johnson had sustained two heart-breaking setbacks at the hands of the Giants, and it seemed the irony of fate would keep him from the goal of a lifetime.” – Sporting News 10/16/1924
The only irony in the end was that Johnson, who was baseball’s best starting pitcher for a number of years (and possibly the all-time pitcher), had his most glorious moment in baseball come in a relief appearance.
National Anthem at Game 7 of the 1924 World Series
Early on, however, it seemed that the Nationals were prepared to, quite literally, throw away their first World Series. The team had committed eight errors in the first six games of the series, many of them costing runs (just 15 of the Giants 24 runs were charged as earned runs). During the season, the Nats had the AL’s best defensive efficiency rating, and were second in fielding percentage, but that seemed to all be out the window in the World Series.
After manager Bucky Harris gave his team a 1-0 lead with his second home run of the series, a solo shot off of Nehf in the fourth; his team’s defense almost cost Washington a World Series. The team commited two errors in the fifth, part of a three-run inning for the Giants, that gave the National League champions a 3-1 lead. The runs came off of George Mogridge, who relieved starter Curly Ogden after he faced only two batters.
The Ogden start was a case of Harris trying to out-maneuver his counterpart John McGraw. He announced the right-handed Ogden would start so that McGraw would send out his lefty-heavy lineup. After a strikeout and a walk, Harris quickly removed Ogden to bring in the lefty Mogridge.
By the time the score was 3-1, it seemed that the strategy, while possibly clever, was not working. The score stayed the same until the bottom of the eighth. With one out, Nemo Leibold doubled down the left field line. He reached third on Muddy Ruel’s single, and Bennie Tate drew a walk to load the bases. New York starter Virgil Barnes seemed close to working out of the jam when he got McNeely on a lazy fly to left, but the manager would not let his club lose. Harris lined a single to left that tied the game.
Shirley Povich, 70 years later, described the scene in the ninth inning.
Now Harris needed a new pitcher going into the ninth and the crowd was clamoring, “We Want Johnson!” When Johnson strode to the mound the stadium was in an uproar. He could yet win a World Series game and so much of America would be pleased.
Johnson ran into some trouble right away, and had to pitch around a one-out triple to get out of the ninth with the score still tied. He and Giant pitchers Hugh McQuillan and Jack Bentley exchanged scoreless innings until the 12th. Johnson had to pitch around a lead off single to get out of the top half of the inning, but, as it turned out, a Hank Gowdy fly out to left would be the ace pitcher’s last pitch of the game.
In the bottom of the 12th it was New York’s turn to have defensive difficulty. With one out, Muddy Ruel earned a second chance when his pop foul was dropped by Gowdy. He made the most of it, firing a double to left for his second hit of the game and the series. Johnson, batting for himself, reached when the short stop Jackson booted his grounder, bringing Earl McNeely to the plate with men at first and second and only one out.
Who better to describe the play than Washington’s long time sports writer, Shirley Povich:
Third baseman Lindstrom was poised for a routine play on McNeely’s sharp grounder, maybe an inning-ending double play. And then for the Giants — horrors. For the Senators — glee. Whatever McNeely’s ground ball hit, a pebble or a divot or a minefield, it took a freak high hop over Lindstrom’s head into the outfield for a single and Ruel flew home from second with the run that won everything for the Senators.
In Griffith Stadium the crowd catapulted out of the stands to thrash onto the field and to dance on the dugout roofs, refusing to leave the park until long after nightfall.
The next day, of course, it was up Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House for the World Series champions, the streets lined by tens of thousands. The city’s joy was best expressed, perhaps, by the enthusiasm of the men on the hook-and-ladder float of the Cherrydale, Va., Fire Department, which flaunted a huge banner that read: “Let Cherrydale Burn.”